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Serralunga d’Alba, Italy; photo by the author

Today, the day before Thanksgiving, is my favorite day of the year. It has been for as long as I can remember. There are a few reasons why:

  • Fall is my favorite season;
  • November is my favorite month;
  • Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; and
  • It immediately precedes a four-day weekend.

But these reasons are all icing on the cake, so to speak. The real reason today is my favorite day of the year is an annual tradition of going to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons being inflated around the Museum of Natural History. …


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El Paso–Juárez, Texas and Mexico; photo by the author

Business and technology are filled with gendered, racist, and otherwise insidious words that we should stop using. I am not the first to point this out, nor will I write the most comprehensive post on the topic. Nevertheless, it is helpful for me, and hopefully the team at Brightflag, to maintain this list and refer to it as we work to eliminate biases and change deeply ingrained behaviors.

I will update this list over time, noting when I do so. The absence of a word on this list doesn’t mean that I endorse its continued use. …


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Acadia National Park, Maine; photo by the author

Last week I interviewed a candidate who asked me what I like most about Brightflag. It’s an easy question for me to answer: our values and how deeply ingrained they are in everything we do.

Literally not a day goes by where someone doesn’t make reference to one of our values during a meeting. We made stickers for each of them, and they adorn our laptops and notebooks. They exist as custom emoji in our Slack workspace. We nominate our hero of the week each Friday based on how team members have exemplified them.

I can say with confidence that Brightflag’s values, and the degree to which they guide our team’s actions, are a significant contributor to success. I share them below and discuss what each means to me. …


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Arches National Park, Utah; photo by the author

This is a post that I intended to write in May 2019 shortly after I joined Brightflag as Chief Customer Officer. But a funny thing happened: what little free headspace I had disappeared quickly. In the intervening time, Dave Kellogg wrote about what to look for in and things to avoid in selecting a job at a software startup. Both posts are insightful, as usual, and I felt there was little I could add to the topic.

After more than a year of recruiting and supporting friends and former colleagues with their own job searches, I’ve changed my mind. It seems that no one can get too much advice on this topic. Plus, it turns out this blog is an effective recruiting tool (thanks, Patty Brooks!), …


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Acadia National Park, Maine; photo by the author

Many have written about how the coronavirus pandemic has not resulted in new trends so much as it has accelerated existing trends. The shift to e-commerce from in-store shopping. Broader acceptance of work from anywhere for the knowledge economy. Valuing more livable spaces (this coming from a born-and-raised Manhattanite!). These trends began before the pandemic but have picked up speed (rapidly, in many cases) over the course of the last five months.

Here’s another trend that the pandemic has accelerated: too many meetings, and in particular, too many bad meetings.

From March 16 through August 14 of this year, I spent an average of 9.5 hours per day in Zoom meetings. Oof. Regardless of quality, that surely is too many meetings. And while my personal Zoom statistics may be extreme, if you’re reading this post you likely agree: the pandemic has pushed us to the breaking point. …


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Antelope Canyon, Arizona; photo by the author

I was a tri-varsity athlete in high school: cross country in the fall, indoor track and field in the winter, and track and field in the spring.

The first two teams were coached by history and English teachers, and while accomplished runners, they weren’t exactly competitive spirits. The track and field team was another story altogether. It was led by the (American) football coach, because sprinting short distances and throwing heavy objects in awkward ways is what football players do to keep in shape when not on the gridiron. This was a completely different environment, one that valued results above all else. …


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Horseshoe Bend, Arizona; photo by the author

I’ve joined Brightflag as Chief Customer Officer. This is the short story of how I came to choose my next adventure.

When I stepped away from Smartling at the end of last year I had no preconceptions about what would come next. All I knew was that I wanted (to borrow a friend’s expression) to experience the luxury of time off, and for whatever was next to push me outside of my comfort zone.

This intentional lack of focus flummoxed more than a few founders, CEOs, investors, and recruiters, not to mention family and friends, most of whom assumed I knew exactly what I wanted to do and was playing coy. In fact, I seriously considered positions that would require relocation, have no customer-facing responsibility, or be with a services company, any one of which would be a significant change. …


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Paolo Bea Montefalco Sagrantino Secco Pagliaro; photo by the author

In her seminal work on urban planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote:

As for really new ideas of any kind — no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be — there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.

I’ve always loved this quote. Jacobs was writing about the economics of urban building construction, but her thesis — that everything new owes a debt of gratitude to, and in many cases is dependent on, everything old — rings true in just about every circumstance. …


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Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador; photo by the author

My first post of the year was about the importance of goal setting. In it, I described my personal goals for 2019, which I presented as OKRs (objectives and key results). An important component of the OKR framework is accountability: a “continuous reassessment and honest and objective grading” of performance against goals, according to Doerr.

So, how am I doing a third of the way through the year?

So-so.

I achieved my Q1 goal for financial savings. I also achieved my Q1 goal for physical fitness, although not for the reasons I expected, and I’m behind on my Q2 goal, putting my full-year goal at risk. I’m behind on my national parks goal (two out of ten); five planned visits were foiled by weather and the U.S. …


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Canyonlands National Park, Utah; photo by the author

I’m asked frequently about the difference between pre-sale and post-sale technical resources, and why they can’t be used interchangeably. Typical pre-sale technical resource titles are Sales Engineer and Solution Consultant; post-sale technical resource titles are more varied and include Solution Architect, Implementation Engineer, and Technical Consultant. For brevity I’ll refer to them as Sales Engineer (SE) and Solution Architect (SA).

The relevant technical skills and product knowledge are similar. I like to identify the superset of technical skills and product knowledge and state the minimum required proficiency for each as follows:

  • Level 0: None (i.e., the skill/knowledge is nice-to-have)
  • Level 1: Beginner (know enough to be…

About

Kevin Cohn

Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.

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